Otto Bayer, who was not related to the family that founded the Bayer Group, was born in Frankfurt am Main on November 4, 1902. There he began his study of chemistry, which he concluded in 1924 with a doctorate. His tutor was the famous chemist Julius von Braun, who arranged his first job in an industrial facility — at the Cassella Farbwerke of I.G. Farbenindustrie — following Bayer's two-year period as a research assistant.
After Bayer had registered his first research achievements in the field of vat and sulfur dyes and in the lightfastness of dyestuffs, he was unexpectedly appointed to the management of the department in 1931. This was followed only two years later by another surprising career move of major significance: he was transferred to Bayer in Leverkusen, where he became head of the Central Scientific Laboratory. Although Otto Bayer was only 32 years old at the time and the youngest member of the team, he soon succeeded in making a name for himself.
In Leverkusen he was exposed to completely new fields of research, such as rubber chemistry, pharmaceutical research and crop protection. Otto Bayer's greatest achievement was ultimately the invention of polyurethane chemistry. The principle of polyaddition using diisocyanates is based on his research, yet at first, his closest colleagues were very skeptical. Although the production of macromolecular structures was already a line of research that held promise for the future, Otto Bayer's basic idea of mixing small volumes of chemical substances together to obtain dry foam materials was seen as unrealistic. But after numerous technical difficulties, Bayer eventually succeeded in synthesizing polyurethane foam. It was to take 10 more years of development work before customized materials could be manufactured on the basis of his invention.
Otto Bayer influenced the development of this versatile family of plastics for many years until his death at the age of nearly 80. Thanks to the chemical and entrepreneurial achievements of the inventor of polyurethanes, the Bayer Group still holds a large share of the world market for these materials.